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Explain the difference between Act and rule utilitarianism

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Introduction

Religious studies Explain the difference between Act and rule utilitarianism Utilitarianism is described as being either an act or a rule. Act utilitarianism was devised by Jeremy Bentham which he believed human beings were motivated by pleasure and pain and therefore they may do anything which brings out 'the greatest good for the greatest number.' He believed people must measure their actions by using the hedonic calculus as it weighs up the pain and pleasure generated by the available moral actions to find the best possible outcome. However rule utilitarianism is motivated by rules, unlike act, rule believes that it is not the consequence which determines whether an act is right or wrong, however it is the act itself. Mill believed that 'the well being of the individual was of greatest importance and that happiness is most effectively gained when the individual are free to pursue their own ends, subject to the rules that protect the common good of all'. Act utilitarianism does not act on moral rules; the theory allows people to make their own decisions, however the decision should be based on the consequence that the action would produce. ...read more.

Middle

In contrast a rule utilitarian would not persistently give up their money for charity each time, they see the good of giving to charity, because a rule is to allow time for leisure, and constantly giving up the money would not be doing so, therefore a rule utilitarian may resolve this problem by carrying extra money in to give to charity and the rest of the money to go cinema. This is because rule utilitarianism is based on acting on rules. Therefore one of the main differences between act and rule utilitarianism is that the rightness or wrongness of an action is based on the act itself and not the outcome of the act, as a result of this rule utilitarianism has a deontological approach. For example if a poor person steals money from a rich person an act utilitarianism would justify this however a rule utilitarian would be against this, as it is against the law to steal and lying does not necessarily bring out the greatest good for everyone. In act utilitarianism the aim is to produce 'the greatest good for the greatest number' this is determined by the use ...read more.

Conclusion

Therefore the difference between act and rule utilitarianism, is that rule utilitarianism is based on rules and following the rules, even if it does not produce the greatest pleasure for the greatest number, as telling the truth instead of lying is good for everyone. Also rule utilitarianism believes that there are 2 types of pleasures, which are higher and lower, and everyone should aim for higher pleasure ' as it is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a satisfied pig.' However in act utilitarianism, Jeremy believed it is best to produce the 'greatest good for the greatest number' by weighing up the pleasure and pain using the hedonic calculus as it would help on deciding what act to do in order to lead to maximum goodness. In rule utilitarianism they believe that people should follow the moral rules as it is for all good, however in act utilitarianism they believe that the act itself determines whether it is right or wrong, however it is the consequence which does so. ...read more.

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